Friday, May 28, 2010

Overwhelmed Mothers: The dangers of asking for Help

Lately, I have been encountering Family Court cases where children are being removed from their homes, their parents, families and friends because their single mothers are overwhelmed, either by juggling her children, work, and daily life or because she just felt like she could not do it on her own. These single mothers sought help from agencies offering home making services or counseling services.

So, I started to think about the message being sent to single mothers struggling to take care of their children. Why would any single mother ask for help if she will only receive such help at the expense of her kids being taken away? The single mothers, who voluntarily seek out help from agencies that are supposed to provide resources for the best interest of the child, end up having their children removed from the house because they sought out assistance. So, in essence we are punishing these mothers for doing the right thing. However, when the mother does not receive help and something bad happens to her child because of it, we are incredibly quick to condemn the same mother and think the worst of her.

In New York, pursuant to section 1024 of the Family Court Act, A designated employee of a city or county department of social services shall take all necessary measures to protect a child's life or health including, when appropriate, taking or keeping a child in protective custody, without a Court Order and without the consent of the parent or other person legally responsible for the child's care, regardless of whether the parent or other person legally responsible for the child's care is absent, if (i) such person has reasonable cause to believe that the child is in such circumstance or condition that his or her continuing in said place of residence or in the care and custody of the parent or person legally responsible for the child's care presents an imminent danger to the child's life or health; and (ii) there is not time enough to apply for an order.

According to the law, it does not seem like a mother stating she is overwhelmed and requires assistance taking care of her children would warrant a removal without Court order, but it is happening all of the time now. It is true that some of these mothers state they are overwhelmed and due to their inability to cope they have thoughts of hurting their children. Well, then I agree with the agency and the removal of the children in order to give the mother a break and provide her with certain services to alleviate the unhealthy thoughts. However, this is not always the case.

It’s a shame that resources are limited to single mothers, and on top of that they cannot even ask for help from the agencies that are supposed to provide the limited amount of resources available because their children may be taken away and placed into foster homes as a result. The system is becoming too sensitive or overburdened, and it’s a shame as the real victims are the children getting taken out their homes where they feel safe and loved.

So, I have recently been asked to teach a Parent Education class and a class for children on how to cope with their parents’ conflicts or struggles, provided by the Brooklyn Family Court, and gladly accepted in the hope that maybe I can make some parents feel less overwhelmed with the Court process and every day life and teach children certain coping mechanisms they can use in their every day lives.

Until Next Time,

Helen M. Dukhan, Esq., LL.M. @

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